This glossary is intended to help lay people to understand what people in health and social care are talking about when they use acronyms. It was devised in Manchester, and has a regional bias, but jargon in the rest of the UK is not very different, and I have tried to include Scottish, Irish, and Welsh terms. I am only trying to cover acronyms. Helpful people who suggest I should include all sorts of other terms devised to confuse, mystify or impress the lay reader of official documents have clearly not comprehended the enormity of the problem. I must thank Mervyn Monks of South Gloucestershire LINk who contributed a substantial collection of new acronyms, just as I was beginning to think I would never get round to bringing this up to date. We now have a definite bias towards the West.
Terms included are mostly those discussed by managers and politicians (usually because they cost money) or which you may find included in medical notes. Some doctors charge a fee for explaining your notes to you, but I hope this glossary will help you understand for free. If you are looking for information about a medical condition you might like to try UK Self Help, which has a very good list of helpful organisations, mostly run by people by people with personal experience of the condition. They are also very helpful in understanding exactly what people mean when they use unfamiliar words
It would be better if people spell out exactly what they mean, at least the first time round, but they don’t, so I hope this list will help. If you are on the receiving end of documents supposedly produced for the public or for users of services please complain. if they are incomprehensible managers can get help if they can’t manage to communicate with ordinary mortals.
Some of the explanations in the glossary are a bit quick and dirty, so may give an inaccurate picture, particularly of complex organisations. Some are doctors’ slang or offensive – or both – but as you may find them in your notes I make no apology for including them. And a few are internet terms, but they get everywhere these days
You can find other glossaries on the Internet. This one is designed for lay people interested in the British National Health Service and welfare state. Most of the others are designed for professionals. Acronyms And Initialisms For Health Information Resources compiled by Marie-Lise Antoun is the most impressive multilingual list, but hers, like this one, is not longer updated. Allglossary has 1702 glossaries listed in 242 Categories, and Acronym Finder claims to have 186,000 entries in its database. So this is pretty modest by comparison. For clinical stuff BioMedSearchseems a pretty comprehensive database. The Guardian has produced a useful list of NHS jargon and acronyms.
There are a number of organisations which will help official organisations to communicate clearly.
- Fowlers’ work, The King’s English
- Guardian style guide
- Martin Cutt’s Oxford Guide to Plain English.
- Plain English Campaign
- The Plain Language Association
- The Word Centre
- Bad Language: The Use and Abuse of Official Language
Health and Social Services Glossary of Acronyms
3Ns Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland Mental Health NHS Trust (obs)